Hitting the Spot With Leopards
When it comes to animal mascots, there is no doubt that the tiger wins paws down. From companies and US colleges to international sporting events, the Panthera tigris has been paraded in many engaging or ferocious avatars. The lion has too had a good run as a mascot and logo, most recently powering the Make in India campaign. However, animal lovers, especially felinophiles, should be heartened to know there’s a new big cat in town, at least when it comes to sporting events. For, the unveiling this week of Kheleo, the mascot of the Fifa Under-17 World Cup 2017 to be held in India in October, marks the ascent of the leopard — in this case, the elusive, endangered Clouded Leopard. He comes not long after Zakumi, a ‘teenage’ leopard with spiky green hair that graced the 2010 Fifa World Cup in South Africa, and a snowboarding snow leopard that was a mascot of the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympic Games.
Showing his preference for the feline, the then-Russian prime minister Vladimir Putin had said, “The leopard is big, strong, fast and beautiful. If the Olympic project restores at least one segment of nature that was lost due to human activities, it will be symbolic.” With leopards becoming a draw for wildlife tourists in India too, hopefully, Kheleo the clouded leopard’s cheery face will attract young football enthusiasts to conservation efforts too.